MORE than 50 people were rescued by RNLI lifeboat crews across Somerset last year, new figures show.

The statistics reveal 54 people were helped by crews inMinehead, Burnham-on-Sea and Westonsuper- Mare.

In Minehead, the number of people assisted in 2013 was 14, down from 20 in 2012.

Across the South-West, lifeboat crews launched their vessels 1,449 times, rescuing 1,450 people and saving 34 lives in the 12-month period.

Minehead launched their vessels a total of 22 times, half of those in the dark and spent a total of 78 hours at sea.

Chris Rundle, press officer at Minehead Lifeboat Station, said: “What has been slightly worrying from our point of view has been the number of times we have been called out when people have found themselves completely unable to cope with the sea conditions.

“There seems to be a growing trend for people to challenge themselves by kayaking or kite surfing, or even going fishing in weather when they should really be staying safe onshore.

“The sea and the coast do, of course, provide wonderful opportunities for adventure but there are clearly occasions when the thirst for adventure turns into recklessness.

“It doesn’t matter to our crews what weather they turn out in. They are trained to cope with any conditions and our lifeboats are the finest in the world. But they can only respond to a call for help.

“The real fear I have is that one day someone in trouble along this fairly sparsely-populated coastline will find themselves totally overwhelmed before they have time to make that call.” 

Andy Hurley, RNLI regional operations manager said the figures illustrate the ‘incredible dedication shown by the charity’s volunteers’.

He said: “The volunteers are equipped and trained to respond to all kinds of incidents whatever the weather throws at them.

“However, it is a massive commitment, not only for them, but for their families, loved ones and employers who must also become part of the wider RNLI family.”

Whilst the charity’s operational volunteers were busy out on the water or patrolling the beaches, the volunteer fundraisers were also working hard.

That was especially true in Minehead where the lifeboat crew have had to take on responsibility for their own fundraising.